Ol’ Red was probably the ugliest pick-up truck in south-central Kansas. Paint was peeling away from all four quarter panels, across the top of the cab, hood and the topper.
Several times I parked it somewhere out of sight of our house when we had special company coming.
Rust was wide and above every wheel well. In some places it had left holes the size of my fist. The ’95 Ford F150 was literally held together in places by at least six different zip ties in different places, and a whole lot of memories.
Yes, it’s a just piece of machinery made of metal, plastic and glass. No, it was not to be confused with a person or even a pet. But there was still a lot of attachment.
As I cleaned out Ol’ Red, before turning over the keys to a buyer, I thought back to the spring of ’97, when we bought it.
At the time Lindsey was just entering her teen-age years. She’s now 31, and has since gone through high school. Even her grad school years seem so long ago. But I have no doubts the old truck could have gotten me to see her in southern California last week, had I wanted to do the trip.
Our first major trip in May ‘97 in Ol’ Red was to the prairies of South Dakota so Lindsey, and friend Becky Johnson, could get Merriam’s turkeys as part of their grand slams.
Jerrod was squeaky-voiced 10-year-old who is now 28, far taller than I am and with a baritone voice. That fall we endured a real white-knuckle ride through a nearly white-out blizzard, headed to western New Mexico so Jerrod could shoot a cow elk. It was his first big game animal.
Dad was still alive back then, and I drove the truck back and forth to our farm dozens of times that fall, sometimes up to three times per week, to help care for him then.
I sure shed a lot of tears on those trips heading back to Newton as I watched the cancer take more and more of his life. He’s been dead for so long I struggle to remember the sound of his voice.
I vacuumed a lot of black hair from the carpet the other day. It belong to Hank, the black Lab I used to have to lift into the truck as a puppy. I ended up lifting him into the truck a lot more times his last few hunting seasons. He died in April, after 14 great years.
As I said when we bought the truck, when it had less than 30,000 miles, I got more than 300,000 miles out of Ol’ Red. It still started easily and hummed down the highway doing 80 with no problems.
But sooner or later the motor or the transmission would have gone and this fall I can’t take a chance on being stranded far from a friend who may be needing me. I’m also planning on a lot of pheasant hunts, with Cade, our six-month-old Lab puppy.
To be honest, I’m also ready for a better looking mobile, too.
It went to a new owner last Thursday evening, a retired man who came to Wichita from Vietnam 40 years ago. We’ve hit it off just fine, and seem to be developing a friendship.
His stories of what he endured to get here, how hard he worked to help others from his country succeed in Kansas and how much he loves being an American are pretty humbling.
Mr. Ly has even offered to let me borrow Ol’ Red if I need to, as we search for another pickup.
I don’t think that will be happening. It’s time for me to move on.